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Music and the Creative Spirit

Bruce Hornsby: Halcyon Days

By Published: February 23, 2009
BH: Yeah, I'm with that. I agree with that. I think it's a deep well, a deep musical area that's been growing for the last 50 or 60 years. But there is one difference in that I think a lot of people in Jazz have a forward looking aesthetic. And there is a lot of consternation in jazz because a lot of my jazz friends feel that the musical community has not really come to the table with new innovations in the last 20 or 30 years; whereas the Bluegrass community doesn't have that artistic forward looking view about it. There is a real difference in the mind set there. This goes along with what I was saying before about the conservative traditional mainstream Bluegrass audience. If Bluegrass wants to be considered as an art form as deep as jazz, then I think the overall mind set would have to change. And obviously there have been a lot of people who have done that. There is the New Bluegrass Revival including Bela Fleck's whole thing, Ricky's thing, and Jerry Douglas and Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor
b.1972
saxophone
and many more. There are so many virtuosos who bend and try to move the music in different ways. So, it's definitely there but it's the audience that needs to be educated and be willing to go along with crazy new attempts and innovation.

LP: In a way, I think the individual artist will always be more important than any specific form or genre.

BH: I'm always looking to push a few boundaries in that way but I'm never sure how successful I will be as I'm a bit of a traditionalist in my song writing approach. I like to write a good chorus and like to have words so I'm not sure if it's in me to be the Ornette Coleman of the pop world. (laughs) But I would like to think that I could do that, but I'm not sure. I would have to be deeply committed, but it's a good goal and it's an interesting idea.

LP: Many of us just want you to continue to be Bruce Hornsby.

BH: Well that... I have no choice. (both laugh)

LP: But some people don't realize how important it is to be the selves and create from there.

BH: Yeah well, that's right. But it's been my approach for a long time. I'm just kind of trying to find myself so I appreciate your noticing and being interested. It means a lot.

LP: What about your own creative process?

BH: My own creative process is all about the search for chills, trying to get myself off musically. And for me, that's really hard to do. It might be something that I accidentally stumble across while playing or I will hear what someone else had done and love it so much that I will try and find my own way of getting inside that same area musically without copying. But I am constantly in search of the chill.

LP: Do you believe in the philosophy that you have to go backwards to go forward?

BH: That's what Dylan would say and I think it's a basic rootedness. Dylan had a thought that I am paraphrasing but he said, "Here is a song I have written and it may not be a very good song, but it comes from a place that is so deep that there has to be something in the work that I have done here." I personally think there is something to that.

LP: Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
had a reputation of finding young creative talent but I think an even more significant factor was his ability to find musicians that were not bound or held back by past traditions and influences of jazz history. Is this something you consider when looking for musicians to collaborate with?

BH: The members of my band need to be really broad in their knowledge and open in their approach. But as far as collaborating with other musicians, I have played with others who are very limited in their stylistic range but are so great. I just basically collaborate with people who move me. And it could be anybody from Shawn Colvin to Leon Russell to some rap artist. If I think they are fabulous, I will work with them.

LP: I admire your humility; can you explain where these roots are from?

BH: Perhaps it comes from being aware. I was going to say truly aware but who can know if they are truly aware? My interest in music and therefore my knowledge of music and musicians is such that I could never think that I was a great pianist because I know full well and know very clearly that there are 200 guys that could blow me away. The same goes with singing and song writing.

So I think humility comes from the awareness of your surroundings, but it's also really difficult to have a perspective on your own creative endeavors. It's difficult to know where you are and know if you are doing good work. You really have to be humble and be a tough self critic and try to retain a perspective about what you are doing, as you are doing it. And that's very difficult to do. And I'm really aware of how difficult it is to do and it's still hard. I will still hear something that I did five years ago and think, why did I think that was good? (laughs).


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